Build­ing new skills

Ce­cil Sta­tions pro­mote early lit­er­acy at li­braries



— Li­braries have his­tor­i­cally been places of hushed voices and quiet con­cen­tra­tion, but some county li­braries have re­cently be­gun en­cour­ag­ing fam­i­lies to do ex­actly the op­po­site.

Sev­eral library branches


in Ce­cil County now have des­ig­nated spaces where fam­i­lies can laugh, play and talk to­gether — all in the spirit of pro­mot­ing kinder­garten readi­ness and early lit­er­acy skills.

Called Ce­cil Sta­tions, these ar­eas pro­vide ac­tiv­i­ties such as dress-up, Le­gos, toy ta­ble set­tings and food, a mag­netic boards and iPads with ed­u­ca­tional apps geared to­ward fam­i­lies with chil­dren 5 years old and younger,

said Rachel Wright, Ce­cil County Pub­lic Library chil­dren’s ser­vices li­brar­ian.

“We wanted to be in­ten­tional about plan­ning ac­tiv­i­ties so that fam­i­lies can learn to­gether and play to­gether,” she said. “It’s re­ally about fam­i­lies en­gag­ing to­gether at the library and hav­ing fun.”

The most re­cent Ce­cil Sta­tion was added at the Ris­ing Sun branch when it re­opened af­ter ren­o­va­tions last month, but the Ch­e­sa­peake City, North East and Ce­cil­ton branches also have the sta­tions. CCPL also hopes to create a Ce­cil Sta­tion at the Port De­posit branch in the near fu­ture, Wright said.

All the ac­tiv­i­ties in these ar­eas en­cour­age five early lit­er­acy prac­tices — talk, sing, read, write and play — as out­lined by the Amer­i­can Library As­so­ci­a­tion’s Ev­ery Child Ready to Read ini­tia­tive, Wright said.

At the Ris­ing Sun Library, a sep­a­rate room at the back of the build­ing is de­voted to chil­dren’s books as well as the var­i­ous Ce­cil Sta­tions. Next to a long bench along the wall are a Lego ta­ble and a ta­ble with color-coded place­mats and toy food. Next to the ta­bles is a mag­net board and to­ward the back are dress-up cos­tumes and two iPads with an ar­ray of ed­u­ca­tional apps. At each of the sta­tions, plac­ards sug- gest ways par­ents can use the ac­tiv­i­ties to en­cour­age early lit­er­acy skills.

As her 3-year-old grand­daugh­ter, Ri­ley Fielder, played with the Le­gos, Bar­bara Bryant said this is the se­cond time the two have used the Ce­cil Sta­tions and that Fielder’s fa­vorite sta­tion is the dress-up cos­tumes.

“Ri­ley loves to pre­tend,” said Bryant, who lives in Ris­ing Sun. “She al­ways likes to be the mail­man.”

Lauren Ki­bler, of Ris­ing Sun, was also mak­ing use of the library’s sta­tions for the se­cond time as she and her daugh­ter Is­abel, 2, played with the ta­ble set­tings and toy food.

“It’s very nice, she re­ally en­joys it,” she said. “She loves to play with food at home so this is awe­some.”

Although hav­ing fun is an es­sen­tial el­e­ment of all the ac­tiv­i­ties, an­other goal of the sta­tions is to ad­dress the “word gap” that of­ten ex­ists for chil­dren from lower in­come fam­i­lies. Re­search has found that by age 3, chil­dren from these fam­i­lies heard roughly 30 mil­lion fewer words than their more af­flu­ent peers. This in turn trans­lates into an even wider achieve­ment gap be­tween these two groups and can mean that many kids are al­ready be­hind be­fore they even start kinder­garten, said Fra­zier Walker, CCPL com­mu­nity re­la­tions spe­cial­ist.

Although this trend has pri­mar­ily been ob­served in kids from low in­come fam­i­lies, Walker noted that the in­crease in the num­ber of screen chil­dren in­ter­act with at an early age — such as phones, iPads, com­put­ers and tele­vi­sions — can mean that even chil­dren from more af­flu­ent fam­i­lies are hear­ing fewer words and in­ter­act­ing less with their par­ents.

By set­ting up the Ce­cil Sta­tions in the library branches, Wright said she hopes par­ents will have an op­por­tu­nity to have con­struc­tive play­time with their kids that they might not al­ways get on a daily ba­sis.

“We find that this is a des­ti­na­tion to play and to learn,” she said. “It gives fam­i­lies and par­ents an ex­cuse to not to be dis­tracted by things at home.”


Lauren Ki­bler and her daugh­ter Is­abel, 2, play with toy food at one of the Ce­cil Sta­tions at the Ris­ing Sun Library.


Taiyo Paris, 4, of Ris­ing Sun plays with Le­gos at one of the Ce­cil Sta­tions at the Ris­ing Sun Library.

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